Day 46 ctd - After finding our room, meeting Jack the dog who would follow us everywhere for the next two weeks, and finding the biggest cockroach of the trip so far (even the Thais were impressed!) we went out to 'explore' the village. Less than ten minutes later we were back at the hotel having seen the CJs, 7eleven, market, post office, school and hospital. Following a quick briefing on the next two weeks we went for a cheap restaurant dinner of veg rice for Olivia and Pad Thai for Catherine before an early night under our mosquito net (after gecko removal).
Day 47 - After a toast breakfast (it may be a long two weeks!) and with our shower fixed all was well as we explored tiny Sangkhla again - this time viewing up close the primary school where we were to be volunteering before a long hot walk over to the lake and P Guesthouse where we ate a nice banana pancake with coconut and banana shakes while hearing more about our two week schedule. Catherine was to do teaching, while Olivia chose childcare and fourteen Real Gap people would be building a drainage system and adventure trekking. Briefing completed we met some students learning English in Thailand for a year. They were lovely to chat with and had excellent language skills - even attempting to teach us their native Mon. It was very humbling speaking with them as they envied our travels, the fact we saw our family more than once this year and especially that England had the best football teams! After group photos we walked back to the village for an afternoon of playing cards and Olivia watched movies with a pink watermelon shake before practising her Thai boxing. We both went to Toy's for dinner and Catherine prepared her lesson plans for Monday with Carina, Sascha and Vicky. Later that night while preparing class work Catherine's bed broke - resulting in Thai people waking up to remove snapped rotten chipboard and Catherine wondering just how much weight she's gained while travelling!
Day 48 - It was day one at Anubansangklaburi Primary School and we got there at 8am to watch the flag raising and national anthemn ceremony, prayers and thanksgiving to the King, performed every morning. Olivia worked in the Kindergarten for four to six year olds and Catherine taught Prathom grades 1-6 (7 to 13 year olds). First up for Catherine P1/5 and P1/1 who recited 'Good morning teacher, how are you today? I am fine thank you and you?' after which we introduced ourselves and they said 'My name is...' - this soon became standard for every class. The classes learnt about fruits and even told us their favourites as we counted how many we had bought as market. "Teacher Cat" was a hit (luckily) gaining two chocolate bars and countless hugs all by 10.30am. In workshop we prepared handouts on animals and their body parts which P2/2 completed after our lunch of pumpkin curry and green sugar pudding in the glamorous school canteen while watching students complete their sweeping chores. P2/2 also performed heads, shoulders, knees and toes - sadly German Carina didn't know the song and Teacher Cat muddled up mouth and nose! After another workshop came a hot hour (no fans) of P6/3 all boys who just grasped our conversations about occupation and family. Teaching over, that night we walked to a cosy place where we watched Wedding Crashers while loving the banana shake, chicken fried rice, massive spaghetti and meatballs topped off with a very sweet banana in coconut milk - very filling. After a meeting about our next days work Catherine got an early night in her nice new bed (ish!)
Day 49 - Instead of classes today was an inter-school event where Olivia and Steph judged speeches and Mica, Carina and Catherine ran a Spelling Bee. The Bee was for High School students and involved us slowly reading a word and its explanation twice for three lots of children twenty times (it got repetitive!). Luckily before the spell-off between runners up we were furnished with water and banana cake and chatted with Vicky about why all teachers wore pink on Tuesday (Thailand has a colour per day) and before we knew it it was 11.30am and we were finished for the day and back at Hotel Sridang eating chicken and fried rice. The others returned from their hard and muddy day of digging and to fill our afternoon we strolled round the very few shops before relaxing at The Roasted Coffee Bean with iced chocolate and a cappucino. After a little shopping, Pad Thai and fried rice followed from a cheap restaurant before we returned to lesson plans and had a class in the basics of Thai from Sascha and Vicky.
Day 50 - Scout day at Thai schools is highly entertaining with boys dressed up half like cowboys and girls looking very WWII chic while marching to class doing bizarre drills throughout the day. P6/1 understood conversations on occupation and family much more and showed the whole group what they had learnt. In workshop we then made two worksheets including missing letters, match up and a word search which P3/3 loved completing. After a lunch of noodle soup including chicken and blood pudding Catherine and Carina sat in a very hot room (powercut) for two hours - luckily we had Vicky to entertain us. Lastly P6/2 were even better at the conversations and even prepared a short speech about themselves, what they want to do when they are older and their family's occupations. After we left and had watched scouts do squats and press ups we had a much needed ice cream and relax. The whole group was together (with the Real Gap people back from their orphanage project) and we walked to the far reaches of the village for a super night of strawbery shakes, hawaiian and ham and chicken pizza and banana pancakes all served by an adorable P3 boy while viewing 17 Again.
Day 51 - Animals were successful again with P2/5, though mane confused both the children and the teachers, and lots more hugs kept flowing. P4/3 quickly completed the occupation worksheets and with the same ease P5/2 spoke about their family and jobs - even teaching us more Thai. After spicy chicken and rice school dinner P6/4 were a great ending to the week as they quizzed us on every job from store owner to beautician and boxer. After a great four days it was a shame to leave the school and its incredible students.
Day 52 - It was our first day off from teaching and we spent it with the Mon Tribe students. We walked down to meet them at Saphan Mon, a 400m wooden bridge which is handmade (it really showed) and the longest in Thailand. The bridge looked like it was constantly being repaired with random bits of wood and crossing it was a little terrifying, particularly when bits fell away beneath you! We met the students who were in their traditional Friday clothing and were paired up by their teacher David. We talked with them about various aspects of our lives as they led us to a Mon village where we visited the huge golden Wat Wang Wiwekaram, built by a very important monk, and Chedi Buddhakhaya before buying a gift at the Burmese markets for our new friends. Due to the heat we shared a taxi truck back where we relaxed before heading out for the evening where we had a nice buffet dinner as we watched the sun set, a little karaoke and watched some young Mon children perform traditional dances for us.
Day 53 - The weather was beautiful and so Catherine headed to the Nature Club while Olivia spent a day in Sangkhla. Catherine watched zorbing before sunbathing and thanks to Ellena reading 'The Beach' by the peaceful lake - only disturbed by a goose swimming with us and two pet monkeys appearing. Some of the group went quad biking and paddled round the lake on canoes and we all enjoyed the lovely scenery before heading back to Sangkhla where Catherine and Olivia got a tasty chocolate pancake from the market. That night we all went back to the pizza place to celebrate Harriet's birthday and enjoyed more yummy pizzas and her birthday ice cream.
Day 54 - Our group headed to the Burmese border market, though sadly could not enter Burma, for a little shopping and a good iced chocolate. The market sold a mix of wooden crafts, jewellery and fabrics and we each bought a few items after a little haggling. We had lunch back in Sangkhla's market before another wander round the little shops. That night we were back at the pizza place for Sarah's birthday, enjoyed a slice of her ice cream cake with Oreos and Koala Yummies and watched Did You Hear About the Morgans? (yes it was as dreadful as the adverts had made it seem!).
Day 55 - Today was the day everyone in the group had been looking forward to, and what an eventful day it was due to be! From P Guesthouse we caught a little speedboat over to Wat Saam Prasob, The Sunken Temple, which is the last remaining part of the old town flooded to create the Khao Laem Reservoir, and had a wander round. After this we got in the trucks for a very bouncy ride ending in a muddy drive to meet our elephants. Each elephant had a guide with them and Ellena, Olivia and I climbed up onto our ride for the morning. Once up the ride was fairly gentle, until we went uphill, or downhill into rivers, or clambered over tree branches, or another elephant bumped into us. Nonetheless we loved our ride along in the elephant train through the rainforest. We stopped for lunch by the water and had some quick fried rice followed by pineapple before we were told to cross the river. With a strong current Catherine has Richard to thank for stopping her disappearing downstream. Luckily back on dry land, Catherine chose to get the speedboat back and watch Olivia and the others try their hands at bamboo rafting. Sadly the day ended badly with rafts colliding with branches, rocks and rapids; Catherine had to practise her first aid skills and we even saw some Thai first aid (mashing up leaves) and a trip to hospital followed for Sarah. Thankfully nobody was too badly hurt but we all spent that evening resting in the hotel.
Day 56 - Catherine's chest hurt today so she spent the day resting and reading 'The Beach' while Olivia went to volunteer at a Karen Tribe school in the jungle an hour away. Later that day when the rest of the group came back from their day out Catherine's chest pain had worsened so she went to Sangkhla Hospital. After being weighed, measured, apparently having her temperature taken (despite no thermometer coming near her) and being registered as a Thai citizen (who knew visas were that easy?!) Catherine finally got to see the doctor. After his numerous repetitions of 'sorry' for using a stethoscope on her, he diagnosed an inflamed muscle in the chest and prescribed various medication. Upon asking whether this medication would clash with her malaria tablets Catherine received a fascinating talk on what he had heard from his teacher about why one really shouldn't bother taking the tablets at all and a natural immunity should be allowed to develop. His advice was swiftly ignored! After paying 120baht for the visit and medication Catherine checked with her Aunty Caroline about the clash with malaria tablets. Lucky she did as it turned out the prescribed Mydocalm was a muscle relaxant which alters the mind and is illegal in the UK! So no relief for Catherine just lots of bed rest, at least her details are now registed at Sangkhla Hospital should she ever need to return for some expert advice!
Days 57 + 58 - Little happened these days for Catherine as she was stuck resting, though thanks to Maria she managed to read 'A Million Little Pieces' by James Frey followed by his other book 'My Friend Leonard' - excellent books. Cartoons like Casper the Friendly Ghost also kept her occupied although sadly most, like The Flintstones and Popeye, were in Thai.
Day 59 - It had been a long two weeks in Sangkhla and the group was pleased to be getting on the coach back to Kanchanaburi. Part way through the journey we stopped at some hot springs and got into the water which in the different pools varied from warm, to hot, to boiling! Luckily a stream flowed through the site to cool down a lot in afterwards. After lunch at a stall nearby where Catherine got attacked by a baby we continued on our coach journey.